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Ed Driscoll

Bored, You Guys

November 18th, 2013 - 11:32 am

Most modern presidents invariably have that one moment where it all goes wrong, and nothing will ever be the same again. For Eisenhower, it was when Francis Gary Powers’ U2 was shot down over the Soviet Union. For LBJ, it was Tet. For Nixon, Watergate, the fallout from which ultimately doomed Vietnam. For Carter, the botched Iranian hostage rescue mission. For Reagan, Iran-Contra. Bush #41, it was being goaded by the left into finally violating his no-new taxes pledge. For Clinton, it was the Lewinsky scandal. For Bush #43, it was the media ginning up the Katrina scandal into the domestic equivalent of the second Iraq War.

If you’ll notice, these scandals frequently involve, or bleed into, American entanglements with foreign countries. For Barack Obama, America is a foreign country. I don’t mean that in the sense that he’s a crypto-Muslim or Kenyan. (But he is a Keynesian!) But whereas most past American presidents have sought to remake some corner of the globe to be more favorable to the US, Barack Obama’s goal, as a self-admitted “Progressive,” is, as he says to “fundamentally transform” America — to remake the nation in the “Progressives’’’ image.

But in any case, each of these inflection points involving prior Mr. Obama and the former American presidents are the moments where their terms in office were invariably altered. While LBJ, Carter and Bush #41 each saw their tenure in office ended prematurely, others, such as Ike, Reagan, Clinton and Bush #43 were all able to ride out their crisis.

In any case, Barack Obama’s crisis involving Obamacare is one of the great moments of history where a presidency is fundamentally changed. Mr. Obama and his aides may yet find a way to unlock the puzzle this crisis presents and make it work to their behalf. (As Ross Douthat noted yesterday, Obamacare has been given last rites before.) Or he could be doomed to spend the next three years playing golf and delivering rote speeches. You can laugh about the self-made purgatory that the president currently finds himself trapped in, as Jonah Goldberg did. You can view it as high-stakes drama impacting the entire nation. But it’s awfully tough to feign boredom.

Unless you’re Glenn Thrush of the Politico:

As frequent PJM contributor Tom Blumer writes at Newsbusters:

Poor Glenn is bored. He “can’t watch/listen to another word” about the Affordable Care Act. Apparently, writing a roughly 7000-word Politico Magazzzz … zzz … zzz … excuse me, Magazine item about the utter uselessness and policy detachment of most of President Obama’s cabinet is more interesting to him (I’m estimating the total word count because I got bored after reading Page 1 of 5 and seeing my word processor count over 1,500 words). Glenn, you really need to get out of Washington and talk to some of the millions who have seen their policies cancelled, along with a few of those who have seen their health insurance premiums double or triple under Obamacare with often worse coverage. One thing they aren’t is bored.

Unlike Tom, I found Thrush’s article on Obama’s hamstrung cabinet to be sort of interesting, once I got past Thrush’s gushing fanboy worship of the president and his would-be advisors, including his lede:

Steven Chu is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, a brilliant innovator whose research fills several all-but-incomprehensible paragraphs of a Wikipedia entry that spans his achievements in single-molecule physics, the slowing of atoms through the use of lasers and the invention of something called an “optical tweezer.” President Barack Obama even credits Chu with solving the 2010 Gulf oil spill, claiming that Chu strolled into BP’s office and “essentially designed the cap that ultimately worked.” With rare exception, Chu is the smartest guy in the room, and that includes the Cabinet Room, which he occupied uneasily as secretary of energy from 2009 to the spring of 2013.

Ahh, the man who blurted out to the Wall Street Journal — even before Obama won in 2oo8! — that he wants to see American gas prices driven up to sky-high European levels, but doesn’t drive his own car — it’s driven by his wife, and is a gas-guzzling Beamer. I assume that like Tom Brokaw of NBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN, Thrush is perfectly fine with American motorists getting gouged at the pump. Serves ‘em right anyhow for not all buying those Priuses or Volts also eschewed by the Obama administration.

And then there’s this moment…

At the top is a stripped-down command cluster modeled on his campaign, ruled by ferocious gatekeepers such as first-term chief of staff Emanuel and the more disciplined man who currently holds the position, Denis McDonough. But Obama also created in the White House an intellectual cloister where he could spitball ideas with academics like Larry Summers or take a few hours, as he did in the middle of the 2012 campaign, to discuss issues like civility in social media with a group of tech titans. The Cabinet, in many cases, fell between the cracks. And Obama, who has a pronounced disdain for traditional Washington institutions, didn’t much care.

Who’s to say he was wrong? The people closest to the president point out that his approach has won him two elections and helped him cope with a succession of major crises—all while he signed major pieces of legislation into law, including the biggest economic stimulus in American history, financial reform and the health care act that’s so associated with his name. “We were drinking out of a fire hose, but all things considered I think we struck the right balance,” says Gibbs, his first press secretary.

Yes, who’s to say he’s wrong — other than half the country, including Mark Steyn, who unintentionally rebutted the above-quoted passage from Thrush with ease in his latest column:

 So, if I follow correctly, the smartest president ever is not smart enough to ensure that his website works; he’s not smart enough to inquire of others as to whether his website works; he’s not smart enough to check that his website works before he goes out and tells people what a great website experience they’re in for. But he is smart enough to know that he’s not stupid enough to go around bragging about how well it works if he’d already been informed that it doesn’t work. So he’s smart enough to know that if he’d known what he didn’t know he’d know enough not to let it be known that he knew nothing. The country’s in the very best of hands.

Michael Beschloss is right: This is what it means to be smart in a neo-monarchical America. Obama spake, and it shall be so. And, if it turns out not to be so, why pick on him? He talks a good Royal Proclamation; why get hung up on details?

Until October 1, Obama had never done anything — not run a gas station, or a doughnut stand — other than let himself be wafted onward and upward to the next do-nothing gig. Even in his first term, he didn’t really do: Starting with the 2009 trillion-dollar stimulus, he ran a money-no-object government that was all money and no objects; he spent and spent, and left no trace. Some things he massively expanded (food stamps, Social Security disability) and other things he massively diminished (effective foreign policy), but all were, so to speak, preexisting conditions. Obamacare is the first thing Obama has actually done, and, if you’re the person it’s being done to, it’s not pretty.

The president promised to “fundamentally transform” America. Certainly, other men have succeeded in transforming settled, free societies: Pierre Trudeau did in Canada four decades ago, and so, in post-war Britain, did the less charismatic Clement Attlee. And, if you subscribe to their particular philosophy, their transformations were effected very efficiently. But Obama is an incompetent, so “fundamentally transformed” is a euphemism for “wrecked beyond repair.” As a socialist, he makes a good socialite.

And that’s the problem, isn’t it? “He’s never run a business. Or administered a town. Or led troops into combat, or coached a sports team, or any other type of activity that had a success metric other than ‘popularity.’  Even when a legislator Obama spent his time as an advocate (usually for himself), not as an administrator,” Moe Lane writes, linking to Walter Russell Mead, who writes:

There is nothing that any president needs more than a team of competent people around him who can keep him and his key initiatives on track. President Obama is in his fifth year in office, and he isn’t getting the level of performance from his staff you’d need to be an effective principal of a middle school. At this point, that failure doesn’t just reflect badly on the staff; it reflects on the man who selected them. More and more people in the United States and beyond are asking the obvious and painful question: Why can’t the President of the United States find and keep a minimally competent staff?

As Glenn Reynolds, normally Mead’s biggest booster, adds, Clint Eastwood “was spot on” with his empty chair metaphor at the 2012 GOP convention, adding that “much as I love Walter Russell Mead, I note that he voted for this guy, and blandly assumed that an Ivy League pedigree was some sort of assurance of competence. Not so much. And it’s not as if the signs weren’t there, for those able to see them.”

But back to Glenn Thrush, to wrap this post up: when you work for the Journolist-tainted Politico, you’ve gotta do what you gotta do to prop up BHO and help him survive his tenure in office, particularly at key, presidential-defining moments. If that means feigning boredom while history is being written right under your nose, so be it. But it’s difficult to hold yourself out as a journalist – partisan or otherwise – and declare that you’re bored by the scandal that has engulfed the president. Not to mention the tragedy of millions of Americans losing their health insurance.

Hopefully Thrush will find some way that allows him to reacquire sufficient interest to report on the story – even if he’ll always be a true believer of “Progressives” and their magical-thinking president.

Related: From John Nolte at Big Journalism, “Politico ObamaCare Analysis Ignores Coming Employer-Market Cancellations.” I’m sure Politico finds those pretty boring as well.

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